Bertie moving towards new bus garage

Published 9:00 am Tuesday, February 10, 2015

WINDSOR – There’s a children’s nursery rhyme that says “the wheels of the bus go round-and-round”.  And sometimes those wheels turn ever so slowly.

Nearly a year after the target date Bertie Public Schools had originally set in hopes of moving into a renovated transportation facility and school bus garage, Schools Superintendent Elaine White latest update suggests that nursery rhyme bus may have finally chugged up a great hill as she came requesting funding to complete the first phase of a renovation project.

At the regular meeting of the Bertie County Board of Commissioners here on Feb. 3, White gave a PowerPoint presentation of the current bus garage at 222 County Farm Road in Windsor, and it was hardly flattering.

“This building has been condemned twice, but we still have employees in there working and our school transportation fleet being repaired in this building,” White said.

The Superintendent said the building, because of its age and disrepair, is very drafty, even in the office area, producing extremely chilly conditions for workers in winter and making it blazing hot in summer.

The photos showed non-insulated windows, a leaky roof, dilapidated walls through which the elements as well as unwelcome wildlife may enter.  There is also a low ceiling in the garage area rendering the use of lifts for mechanical work ineffective due to the restrictive height.

At the conclusion of her presentation, White informed the Commissioners that the former Bertie Builder’s Discount Warehouse was purchased for conversion into a transportation and garage facility.  The purchase was made in September for $375,000.

“This is the building we are proposing for our new garage,” White stated. “There is plenty of parking on the outside for our fleet of 80 vehicles.”

White did not reveal the specific dimensions of the building, but it’s believed to be more than the 9,000 square feet of the current garage facility.  She also declared the building has two levels with plenty of office space for future renovation.

White reminded the board that in June 2014, the Bertie County Board of Education voted to allot $900,000 of their fund balance to the construction of a new bus garage for the district as the current facility was no longer adequate to maintain the current fleet.

“We had to go through a series of things to get to the renovation part, and (realized) we could not put up a building for $900,000,” White explained.  “That’s why we went to the renovation part; of buying a building that was already erected that we could renovate.”

Hite and Associates of Greenville, architects of the new Bertie High School, began working with the school board in their efforts to renovate an existing facility.

“We asked them for ‘bare bones’ because we were going to do a lot of the work ourselves in phases,” White continued. “So this is the bare minimum they’re telling us that we’re going to have to have to get this building ready for us to move in.”

White said Hite and Associates have already gone to the NC Department of Transportation and the Bertie County Building Inspector to make certain the building would pass code.

County Schools Maintenance Director Matthew Bond then presented the Commissioners with drawings of the proposed renovations.  It included garage work bays for servicing up to four buses at one time; a firewall constructed for safety; battery, fuel, and parts storage area; ADA handicap-accessible bathrooms; and construction of large bus-sized garage doors.

“The oil system would be moved from the old facility to the new one,” said Bond. “New lighting would have to be put in, because what remains is not sufficient.”

Bond said one of the larger expenses of the renovation project would be a necessary sprinkler system for fire protection.

“This covers all the things at the present time that have to be done to be able to get into the building and use it,” he stated.

Commissioner Stewart White inquired about the concrete thickness of the current structure’s floor area with regard to the lifts.  Bond said he had been informed the concrete thickness was sufficient.

Chairman Ronald D. “Ron” Wesson then asked White for a total cost estimate for the first phase of the renovation.

Currently, White said the school board had received four bids, with the lowest from A.R. Chesson Construction of Williamston. While not revealing the bid estimate, she said the total for completion of phase-one renovation would be $486,607, and that to date, White says $398,000 has been spent.

“With the architect’s seven percent fee, the total cost would be brought to $920,000 for which we’ve already paid out the $398,000,” White said.

The superintendent said the school board’s attorney has suggested a project manager for the renovation, with a fee to be negotiated.

As reported in the News-Herald on Feb. 7, the Commissioners approved the purchase of the current BPS Central Administration Office Building, also located on County Farm Road, for the amount of $150,000. The administrative offices would eventually be renamed the Central Services Complex and relocated to the site of the old Bertie High School, upon completion of renovations at the US-13 South location across from the new school.  The old office building would then be used by the Bertie County Sheriff’s Office.

“That would give us the opportunity to complete the renovation for the former Bertie High School and have additional money to pay the $20,000 that we are over, and to get a project manager,” White requested.

Commissioner Tammy Lee requested clarity on Hite and Associates’ role in the transportation facility and bus garage renovation.  White re-iterated that A.R. Chesson would do to work with a project manager, a position for which she says she has already advertised and is waiting to interview applicants.

Wesson stressed to those present that these were not additional funds going to the schools, but money that is currently in the county fund balance, and that this would merely be an authorization to use it for the garage facility.

Commissioner John Trent made a motion for the appropriation of the funds, seconded by Commissioner Ernestine Byrd Bazemore, and it was approved unanimously.